ESRC PhD Studentships In Life Course Social Epidemiology


Applications are sought for Economic and Social Research Council-funded PhD studentships starting in Sept 2015 and based in The Department of Epidemiology and Public Health (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/epidemiology).

Students will apply social epidemiological perspectives to the study of relationships between social, psychological and biological factors as they develop over the life course and how they contribute to health, disease and wellbeing. Students will use quantitative techniques to conduct secondary analysis of longitudinal cohort and panel studies.

Much of the work of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health focuses on health inequalities and the social determinants of health, with world-leading research across a variety of disciplines. Its 180 members of staff work in nine research groups: the ESRC International Centre for Life Course Studies in Society & Health; the Whitehall II Study; the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing (incorporating the National Survey of Health and Development); the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre; the Leonard Cheshire Disability and Inclusive Development Centre; Dental Public Health, Psychobiology, Central and Eastern Europe Research, and Health and Social Surveys. There is also a cross-cutting medical and social statistics network.

The department has a vibrant graduate student environment, with currently 104 PhD students and three taught MSc programmes. The PhD programme includes:

•     taught methods and statistics courses

•     weekly student run seminar series

•     annual residential away weekend and workshop

•     annual student poster competition

•     student mentoring scheme

•     customised panels of 2-4 supervisors to provide multi-disciplinary expertise

The Department is close to the main UCL and University of London sites and facilities, The British Library, the British Museum and Regents Park. In addition there are numerous squares in the vicinity e.g. Gordon and Russell Square.

Students may wish to work with one of the following research groups or supervisors within the department that work with longitudinal datasets:

ESRC International Centre for Life Course Studies in Society and Health (ICLS) (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/epidemiology/icls).

Potential supervisors: Professor Amanda Sacker, Professor Yvonne Kelly, Dr Anne McMunn, Dr Noriko Cable, Dr Elizabeth Webb.

The work of the Centre investigates life course influences on health and wellbeing using longitudinal data sets. Health is defined in the terms of the World Health Organisation, to include psychological, physical and social functioning, in addition to specific illnesses and anthropometric and physiological status.  Centre members are trained in a combination of social and biological sciences, and statistics. One of their main interests is in understanding how the social becomes biological, which demands conceptual clarity about social processes and the possible pathways into biological processes. PhDs involve quantitative secondary analysis of birth cohort studies and/or panel studies.

MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL (http://www.nshd.mrc.ac.uk/)

Possible supervisors: Professor Diana Kuh, Professor Rebecca Hardy, Professor Marcus Richards, Dr. Mai Stafford, Dr Rachel Cooper, Dr Graciela Muniz-Terrera.

The MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL is responsible for the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development (the 1946 birth cohort study) , a follow up study of a sample of 5362 births in one week in March 1946. A wide range of demographic, social, medical and psychological data have been collected from participants during 22 further sweeps since birth to age 64 and this offers unique possibilities for studying life course influences on health and well-being from midlife to early old age, using the latest life course methods. PhD projects could include: gender differences in ageing outcomes/healthy ageing; early mental health and adult life chances; health during and after the menopausal transition and the retirement transition; the effects of lifetime social factors, physical activity and other health behaviours, and underlying biology on musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular & cognitive ageing; psychological and social adaptation in older people. Students may have opportunities to spend time with our UK and international collaborators.

The Whitehall II Study (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/whitehalIII/)

Possible supervisors: Professor Mika Kivimaki, Dr David Batty, Dr Annie Britton, Professor Eric Brunner, Professor Jenny Head.

The Whitehall II study was set up to determine why people lower down the social hierarchy have higher rates of cardiovascular disease. Over the last 25 years, a cohort of 10,308 male and female civil servants have been followed up, attending medical examinations and completing questionnaires covering a wide range of information including: health status, work stress, social supports, health behaviours, stressful life events, mental health,  and retirement. Data from this large, longitudinal study are being analysed to identify the pathways through which social position affects health. Whitehall II has been important in providing evidence to support the ‘social determinants of health’ approach to public health. With participants now in their 7th and 8th decades, currently the main focus of Whitehall II is on ageing; our aim is to identify key determinants of late life depression, cognitive decline, and physical functioning.

The Health and Social Surveys Research Group (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hssrg/)

Possible supervisors: Dr Nicola Shelton, Dr Jennifer Mindell, Dr Jane Biddulph, Dr Panos Demakakos, Dr Paola Zaninotto, Dr Cesar Oliveira,

The Health and Social Surveys Research Group studies population health (including health behaviours and outcomes), the determinants of population health, and inequalities in health. Much of the group’s research is carried out using large population surveys that collect data on health, economic and social issues, using a variety of survey methods and statistical techniques. The group houses the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and CeLSIUS supporting the Longitudinal Study, the 1% sample of the England & Wales Census, as well as cross-sectional health surveys such as the Health Survey for England.  Research projects include studies of inequalities and social determinants of health, functioning and wellbeing in older age, alcohol consumption and health, monitoring of physical activity, environment, transport and health, and analysis of stored blood samples. Data linkage of cross-sectional and longitudinal data with cancer, mortality and health episode statistics offer further longitudinal options.

Central and Eastern Europe Research Group (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/easteurope/)

Possible supervisors: Professor Martin Bobak, Dr Hynek Pikhart, Dr. Anne Peasey

The main focus of the East-West research is health and its determinants in Central & Eastern Europe during the societal transition after the collapse of communism. This was a period characterised by rapid social and economic changes and dramatic increases in mortality in many parts of the region. The group coordinates a large population-based cohort study (the HAPIEE project) of over 35,000 men and women aged 45-69 at baseline in Russia, Poland, Lithuania and the Czech Republic, with measurements including health status, social and psychosocial characteristics, nutrition, health behaviours, cognitive and physical functioning and biomarkers, and prospective follow up for mortality and CVD morbidity. Data, collected in several waves by face-to-face interviews, examinations at clinics and postal questionnaires, also include information about social circumstances in the childhood and young adulthood. The group also participates in other large projects: a study of mass privatisation and health in former Soviet Union, collaborative analyses of large cohorts studies focusing on ageing (the CHANCES project), an EU-project focusing on main drivers of social inequalities in Europe with particular focus on the role of social determinants of health in early childhood (the DRIVERS project), and a collaborative study of CVD biomarkers. More recently, the group has also set up a research collaboration with Kazakhstan, a Central Asian republic and former part of the Soviet Union. The researchers from the group are also interested in the analysis of data from ageing studies in China, Korea, India or Japan. These projects allow possibility of comparative analyses across wide range of European and Asian populations, focusing on social, behavioural and biological determinants of health across the life course.

Studentships are available as either 1+3 or +3 and entry requirements vary correspondingly. The 1+3 studentships cover a four-year period, which includes one year of study on the department’s MSc in Health & Society (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/healthandsociety/course-overview) followed by three years of PhD study. They are intended for applicants with a First Class or Upper Second Class Bachelor’s degree, preferably in a quantitative social science, but degrees in biomedical sciences may be considered if some experience of social science can be demonstrated. The +3 studentships cover a three-year period of PhD study for applicants who already hold a Master’s degree (preferably with a merit or distinction) in a relevant topic, preferably a quantitative social science. Student recruitment involves a two-stage process. A short-list of applicants will be interviewed by the department and up to four top-ranking +3 and up to four top-ranking 1+3 candidates will be submitted to UCL’s ESRC Doctoral Training Centre (DTC). Those candidates receiving top-ranking at the DTC level will be funded.

ESRC Studentships cover home fees and full stipend (currently £15,863 pa with an additional £3,000 pa for those using advanced quantitative methods).

Applications: Applications should consist of a CV, a statement of research experience and interests, and the contact details of two academic references. Also, please indicate whether you have an idea of which of the above research groups or supervisors you wish to study with.

Electronic submissions are preferred.  Please include a contact telephone number and an email address. Applications should be addressed to: Ms Floriana Bortolotti, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 6BT (f.bortolotti@ucl.ac.uk).

Application deadline: 18 January 2015

If you wish to discuss possible research topics and opportunities, please contact the Graduate Tutor, Dr Anne McMunn (020 7679 1730, a.mcmunn@ucl.ac.uk).

Academic references will be taken up for all short-listed candidates and travel costs will be reimbursed up to the equivalent of the most economical train/air fare available within the UK.

MRC PhD Studentship (The MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL)

Duration of Studentship: 3 years full time

Stipend: £15,863 per annum + fees

Closing Date: 18 Jan 2015

Latest time for the submission of applications: Midnight

Studentship Start Date: September 2015

Vacancy Information

The MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL, an international centre of excellence for life course epidemiology (http://www.nshd.mrc.ac.uk).

Studentship Description

The Unit is offering a 3-year doctoral fellowship for research on life course approaches to areas such as cardiovascular, cognitive, musculoskeletal and reproductive ageing; mental health and wellbeing; healthy ageing, disability and care; social and gender inequalities in health and ageing; retirement and extended working.  Applicants will need to be motivated researchers, with a keen interest in a life course approach to health and ageing. Applications are invited from graduates with a good (First Class or Upper Second Class) Bachelor’s degree plus an MSc in epidemiology or a related discipline, or equivalent research experience.

This post provides a valuable opportunity to gain skills in longitudinal studies and life course epidemiology.

Person Specification

Applicants will need to be motivated researchers, with a keen interest in a life course approach to health and ageing. Applications are invited from graduates with a good (First Class or Upper Second Class) Bachelor’s degree plus an MSc in epidemiology or a related discipline, or equivalent research experience.

Please see the job description for the specific criteria related to this PhD opportunity.


To apply, please include a CV, a separate statement of research experience and interests, an indication of thetopic for which you are applying, and the names and contact details of two academic referees. Electronic submissions are preferred. Please send them to Jane Johnson jane.johnson@ucl.ac.uk. Please include a contact number and an email address. Applicants who would like to receive this advert in an alternative format (e.g. large print, Braille, audio or hard copy), or who are unable to apply online should contact us by telephone on 020 7670 5700.

Please note the eligibility residence criteria that must be met at: http://www.mrc.ac.uk/skills-careers/studentships/studentship-guidance/student-eligibility-requirements/

UCL Taking Action for Equality

Contact details

Jane Johnson; jane.johnson@ucl.ac.uk, 020 7670 5700

Further opportunities can be found on local Research Departmental vacancy pages via the following links: 

CHIME Centre for Health Informatics & Multi-professional Education
EPH Epidemiology & Public Health
IPH Infection & Population Health
PCPH Primary Care & Population Health
Department of Applied Health Research

Page last modified on 11 dec 14 15:41